Farewell 2015: Maybe I’m Called to Mission Work
I greeted 2016 by dancing with 30+ of my friends and 16,000+ people after a five-day intensive conference in St. Louis, and it was the most amazing New Year’s moment of my 23 years. I have a lot of goals for the new year but first I’ll begin with my trip.
The conference is called Urbana, it happens once every three years and is for students from all over the USA and Canada to learn about missions. When I say it’s intense, that means a schedule of getting up at 8AM daily for studying, two seminars a day in our fields of study, and two sessions a day where all of us gather to sing and listen to speakers talk about how people are persecuted all over the world for their faith. Each day I got back to my hotel at 10PM and joined others to debrief the day before sleeping at 1AM or so. Whew!
We hardly hard time to eat, let alone explore the city but here’s a photo of me being silly in the heart of St. Louis, so tired that I had my glasses on.
Why would I spend my holiday doing this? People have wondered. As my master’s program is at its halfway point, it’s time to think about what I will do once I get my degree, and the thought of going back to working 40 hours a week in an office terrifies me. I escaped from that a year ago into graduate school because I had done it for seven months after college and I couldn’t stand it. It wasn’t because I had a bad job or that the responsibilities were too tough, believe me I LOVE seeing the numbers in my bank account and modesty aside I was good at my job, I got three promotions in the year I was there. But I saw absolutely nothing for my future except working pointlessly. For months I didn’t even hang out with anyone because work made me so tired that all I wanted to do was read 9gag on weekdays and play video games on the weekend.
Since starting graduate school I’ve only worked part time while studying, and because of my Christian community I have a crazy social life. I enjoy it so much that I am delaying my graduation to the end of this year so I can work on my thesis game with no other class commitments while spending more time in community. However my mom has been saying to me for the past few months that I’m 23, I can’t be a student forever and that I have to accept the next step sooner or later because it’s “real life”. Which means cutting down my social life to work full-time, setting in a serious relationship [the phase that most of my same-age or older friends are at], getting married, buying a house, having children, etc.
As a Christian I believe everyone has a story to share, and that we are not bound to the rules of what “real life” is supposed to be because of these stories. And it’s difficult for any person to admit that, because of societal pressure. It’s also difficult for parents, especially Asian parents, to understand that I can’t return to working in an office. I could share with them my story, but they would call it a bunch of baloney and that I’m an ungrateful little ****. The circle will never end, which is why I attended this conference to find a way out instead of trying to fight it. To love my parents with God’s love means not arguing with them but also not succumbing to their ideals.
The main purpose of the conference is to teach students about how they can become missionaries or do mission work, and hope that it will either help them grow in their faith or actually want to be a part of it. A missionary is someone who lives in a foreign country to promote Christianity and plant churches. Missions work is organized by churches to send members to foreign countries to care for people in need. And in seminars related to my field of study, I learned about digital missions, which is using technology to connect people who are in need. That would include:
- Video games that present the gospel, love, friendship, family, and other themes that would light flames in people’s hearts that allow them to bond.
- Apps where you can quickly send messages of hope to friends who are suicidal, which is probably easier on both parties than sharing suicidal thoughts VS coming up with the right thing to say.
- Internet movements that promote awareness of people suffering, from extreme topics such as sexual exploitation of girls or less life-threatening things that still should not be ignored like the unnecessary pressures Asian students face in high school.
This sounded perfect for me! Except, it’s not that simple. In order to help people, I have to get to know their stories, which means spending time with them, which means if I want to help the people technology reaches out to, it means leaving my beloved city of New York and becoming familiar with other cultures. Thus on December 31st, 2015, I committed to be a long-term digital missionary as soon as I graduate because I can’t waste any more time, I am not getting younger. That completely changes my goals for this year!
- Blog more. I can’t stress how important this is, because writing is going to be a huge part of what I do and blogging allows me not only to share what I’m doing for support but also improve my writing to be more concise and clear. My goal is four posts a month which averages to blogging every week.
- Return comments. I know returning comments is not something I usually do (this is so much easier on Facebook with the like button) but I assure you I read every comment you guys leave. But returning comments encourages conversations and makes me look more welcoming, hehe.
- Read more blogs to leave comments. Bah, it’s very difficult for me to keep up with all your posts (once again Facebook makes this easier). I’m trying to come up with a way to keep track of who I read or don’t read, since my Feedly is overflowing. I want to get better at this because so many of you guys live in other countries that it would help me in my work later!
- Meet more people. At the conference I sneaked into a prayer room for Chinese international students by passing myself off as one (which is not hard obviously) but I told the people in my group that I was there to listen to their struggles as Christians in a highly atheist and oppressed society. They were welcoming but laughed at my silliness and joked I must be super extroverted. I’m beginning to grasp how immature I really am, but I shouldn’t let that stop me from meeting people because for years I tried being more mature and “cool” and only ended up in a shell of who I am.
- Read a book every month. When was the last time I read a book, 2006? I bought a number of books at the conference to help me grow my faith and it’s pretty essential I read them since they are published by mature Christians who are open-minded and have been missionaries. This is better than Googling when I’m struggling because a lot of articles online are written by people like me to ramble when we are lost half the time. Also note to self: I’m pretty sure the Bible counts as a book, Liv, as hard as it is to read the most essential book to your future.
- Play more video games. I neglected gaming in 2015 because of a lack of time, but if I want to make games, how can I not play them?! That’s like teaching swimming without getting into the water (like my high school swim teacher). I’m not going to be trying speed runs or pro-Smashing, nor am I going to join LoL or WoW. It’s indie games that should be my focus since that’s the full extend of my power as a one woman team. Goal is one indie game a month, as unrealistic as that is.
- Come back to Tumblr annnnnd INSTAGRAM?! What I like about them is that they are so powerful to share things around the world. I got rid of my accounts because they were too time consuming when I began graduate school. I’m not coming back to post photos of cats or food but to use them for accountability. My problem with working on projects is that I don’t want to share something until it’s perfect, which always results in me scrapping the project because nobody knew about it anyway. It’s time to change this!
- Finish my thesis game. Lastly, this is the most important goal of the year. I’ve separated the last 9 credits of my degree into two semesters so I can spend spring finishing up my classes and fall in thesis. That doesn’t mean I am neglecting my thesis until September! I will be constantly working on it. It’s a game inspired by Christian gospel to present that sort of material in a more positive light. I will try to write about it soon in order to hold myself accountable.
I’ll end this post with some photos of St. Louis. Happy New Year everyone!